How to survive a (Business) Divorce

I have just gone through a divorce – and it is one heck of a shock.

Let me be clear – I am not talking about a divorce from my wife – we have been married for almost 44 years, and although we have been through our ups and downs, each time there has been a “down”, the “up” which follows has made us stronger and more understanding of each other.

No – this was a “Business” divorce

It is a massively traumatic experience when you discover that you can no longer work with someone that you believed you can trust with your future (and not just your future, but that of your family and future generations). And when you realise that their ethics are not in line with your own high standards, then it is time to walk away – no matter what the emotional trauma.

I guess it can affect a business professional at any point in their career. Once the shock wears off, the main concern is always two fold:

  • What did I do wrong..?
  • What do I do now..?

In my (now very personal) experience, there are six things you should do immediately after you part company with previously “trusted” business partners:

1. Do nothing – just reflect for a SHORT while

This may sound counterintuitive but a period of reflection gives you a chance to review and absorb all the information that your situation is giving you.

There will be quite a bit of emotional baggage that will be dumped on you, so it’s important to let it out and write it down.

How to survive a (Business) DivorceWriting it down will help you put it into perspective – and often takes the “emotional heat” out of the rawness of your emotions. This is your Emotional Heat list

Also, by writing it down, you have the cornerstones of your future plans – you won’t make the same mistakes twice, will you..?

This situation is tough, and it’s important that “you don’t overreact” – however, give yourself a clear deadline for the start of the “New You” – typically, no more than 3 months.  By then, your emotions will have softened, and your learnings will have hardened.

REMEMBER – Do not over-react.  Contain your emotions. If, after 3 months, you still want to “get your own back”, then revenge always tastes better served cold…!

 2. Ask for recommendations

In your business life, you will have built up various degrees of friendships – some will be “work friendships” and others will be more deep, personal friendships.

Make a list – yes, thats the second one..!

And call it sometime exciting – like “NEW FUTURE” or something similar.

Starting with your true friends, and graduating through to “business colleagues”, list out those people who you are going to contact over the next 3 months. Then set about contacting them, by a mixture of phone, Skype AND face-to-face.

For each one, ask then for their advice and recommendations. As you explain your situation to the people on the list, you will find that your emotions get less and less extreme.  Your true friends will understand those emotions – that why you start with them first.

Let them know that you have a three months deadline to start the next stage of your life – then ask them for their input.

Then listen – and write down what they say.  Don’t judge.  Don’t defend. Just write.

Remember – these people can be a “great referral, not just a reference”.  You need someone who will be an advocate and who is willing to promote your skills for the future.

3. Tap into your network

Now do the same again with your network of contacts on your Social Media platforms.

Whether it is Facebook or LinkedIn, we all have “friends” who are actually worthwhile contacts, but not at the front of our memory.

Spend time to go through your contact lists, and see if you should be “promoting” them to your “NEW FUTURE” list.

And when you start to approach them for a chat, remember to ask them for their HELP and ADVICE – people will feel flattered and far more willing to respond.

4. Clean up your social media

Inevitably, people will be searching for you. How you present yourself online says a great deal about you.

Are you tagged in pictures that only show you in bars?  That could make you look like a party person. Decide whether you either delete posts and pictures that don’t reflect well of you or you could make all of your social media private.

Many people then set up a separate social media business page for their new venture.

I also advise that you pay attention to who you follow because that’s also very revealing. If you follow just Man Utd and Oasis and no serious businesses that says something about you.

If you follow controversial figures or business leaders that says something else about you – think about it…

5. Develop a plan of action

You now have an unfilled 40 hours per week so make use of it. Develop a plan of action for how you’re going to split up your time in order to score a success with this new opportunity.

Initially, you can dedicate 20 hours per week just to networking with your “NEW FUTURE” list.

Whilst it’s important to not waste those empty 40 hours, you should also be able to switch off. I suggest doing things like walking or gardening–anything that helps you to really take a moment to be reflective.

(My dogs have never walked so much as they have over the last three months – and actually, I feel fitter too..!)

Dedicate yourself to something else to make you a well-rounded person – it a great discipline for the future.

6. Practice the conversation

Ready to start..?

One last thing before you unleash yourself on the unsuspecting world…

Practise the conversation – make a KEY STATEMENTS list (yes another one..!) of no more that 4-5 statements that you are going to use to get you into the conversations with your “NEW FUTURE” contacts. 

You will be asked what happened so it’s vital that you practice. Discuss the business reason for the changes.

Most importantly, do not speak negatively about your previous colleagues – even if they are saying bad things about you.

How to survive a (Business) Divorce

You cannot badmouth the company at all. There’s nothing to be gained. If you must speak about it then keep it to your closest friends and family.

As Michelle Obama once famously said  “When they go low, then you go high”.